Women, Education, and Technology: From Jordan to the Mission District

2012_solar_mamasLast month, the Women’s Building was invited to be part of a panel discussion as part of the San Francisco Public Library’s Community Film Screening of Solar Mamas.  The documentary followed a rural Jordanian woman’s experience at Barefoot College where she trained to become a Solar Engineer. Her experience of learning solar panel manufacturing and installation raised many issues in regards to marginalized women and technology–issues similar to those we see in our work with immigrant Latina women who use our Community Resource Room (CRR) Technology Lab.

One of the most important challenges that marginalized women face to pursue education and training is that family needs take priority. As shown in the documentary, women are socialized to believe that caring for their family is more important than their own educational pursuits. In Solar Mamas, the protagonist had to quit her training because of pressure from family to take care of her children despite the availability of her family to help out.

In the Community Resource Room, we also see women prioritize care for their children, sick families, and take responsibility as the primary caregivers in the family. These women, often immigrant Latinas who work as nannies and housekeepers come to our Technology Lab often never having used a computer. Here they learn how to use the internet, access and check email, and conduct job and housing searches. One in five Americans do not have access to the Internet at home and in San Francisco, women have even less access than men, in general. Although San Francisco is an urban technology hub, many of the challenges around utilizing technology for the marginalized women who come to our Community Resource Room are similar to the challenges that women in developing countries face.

For an immigrant Latina woman in San Francisco who is without family and has limited English ability, it would be almost impossible to find a job without the use of a computer to search websites and apply online for positions especially since many jobs require an online application. Just as Barefoot College provided educational opportunities to women in the documentary Solar Mamas, TWB also offers education and training in order to facilitate leadership and change. Our one-on-one approach provides personalized guidance for self-employed women from low-income backgrounds who are looking to strengthen their business or personal goals.

It was a pleasure for us to participate in the panel discussion of Solar Mamas and be able to discuss the connections between the experiences of immigrant women and technology in the Mission District and those of women in Jordan and other developing countries. We strongly encourage you to check out the documentary!

Written by Claudia Huenchuleo and Maya Finlay

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